Nov. 19, 2012
Opening statement: We really needed the bye week because we have some key players that were banged up and might have been limited some for the game if we had played last weekend. We had tremendous preparation for TCU, so we got three good days of work and got our game plan in good shape before we came back to practice yesterday afternoon. And we got to scrimmage a lot of the young ones. We've got some really good key young players that we've redshirted that we haven't been able to play a lot, and even some guys that are playing that didn't play a lot during the ballgames, got to scrimmage. So that worked really well for us.
Even though we aren't playing [Texas] A&M on Thanksgiving, we're really excited about continuing to play and having the tradition of Thanksgiving night for us. The A&M series has been a great series. It's been one that we really enjoyed. I know personally, the 14 years that I've been here I enjoyed it. It was fun playing at both places, and I know the families intermixed, and it was the ultimate instate rivalry. And now that we're not playing anymore, we're really excited that TCU has come into our league. You look at their history of the last six, eight, 10 years -- they've been a BCS team. It's an old Southwest Conference foe. I know our players are excited about it because it once again showcases high school football in the state of Texas with two great programs. And at the same time our players know a lot of their players. So it really will not be that much different from the A&M game for us.
We had the “Aggies Supper” on Sunday night, which has always been a tradition. We simply changed that to the “Senior Supper,” and we had about 35 different explayers back last night. [Former Longhorn OL/Denver Broncos OL] Dan Neil was the guest speaker, and it was a real, real success. Tonight we're having the Hex Rally. There was some talk about should it continue to be the Hex Rally? And I for one, thought it should be, because it's about the Thanksgiving game. And it's about creating spirit for the game for many, many years and also about putting a hex on the opponent, and that opponent just happens to be TCU for this weekend.
It's still our senior game because it's the last home game for our seniors, and I expect our largest crowd ever. I think it'll be so much fun and loud. I hope the Stadium Stampede, two hours before the 6:30 p.m. game, will be the best that we've had. The players will have their family members come and stand with them before the game, and give all of our fans an opportunity to say thank you for them. It should be a special time.
In fact, the truth is our first game ever, in 1893, was on Thanksgiving against the Dallas Football Club. And we won 1816. And they had been unbeaten and unscored on for two years, so this isn't that unusual.
We'll continue to keep Coach [Darrell K] Royal's initials in the logo at the middle of the field for Thursday night's game. The guys will continue to wear the logo on their helmets for the next three games, obviously including the bowl game. So we will keep Coach's presence with us the last three ballgames. I also appreciate the University, the Longhorn Band, and the fans for giving such a tribute to Coach last Wednesday. The memorial service on Tuesday was fabulous, as well. So I really thought that it was a fitting way for us to say goodbye to the person, and we'll keep his memory and his legacy alive forever.
[Junior LB] Jordan Hicks has been declared out for the year by our medical staff. He just has not been able to come back as quickly as we thought. And now he will apply for a medical [resdshirt] at the end of the season.
College football was crazy last weekend. It continues to be crazy. You never know what's going to happen. Anybody can beat anyone, and especially in this league, but it's that way across the country now. Parity is here, and I think it's even more reason that we need the playoff that's coming up here in the next couple of years, because we can see there's going to be one. And I still think there will be a twoloss team play for a national championship before too long here, because a lot of people are playing such close games, and a lot of them are getting knocked off.
Seventy percent of our league is bowl eligible, and two other teams are one game away. And that's more than anybody else in the country. The strength of schedule in this league -- all of our teams are in the top-57. No other league is in that group. Fifty percent of our teams are scoring in the top-five in the country, so it just shows you the way teams are scoring in this league. And just under 20 percent of the touchdowns in this league have been scored in less than a minute. That's 87 touchdowns [that] have been scored in less than a minute out of the 448 [touchdowns]. So it's really amazing. And four of our teams are still ranked in the BCS.
Fast starts -- it's important to us. We've won 104 games and lost 14 when we've scored first, since we've been here. We scored 14 points in the first quarter of the last two games, and we've outscored our opponents in the last three games in the first quarter 35-7. So we need to get out to a quick start on Thursday night if we can.
We've also finished strong. Our defense is playing better since the second half of Baylor. We've outscored the opponents, last three opponents, 31-3 in the fourth quarter. So I'm really excited to see if our defense can continue to play with as much confidence, and keep improving the next two weeks like they have the last four.
[Sophomore DS] Nate Boyer, the celebrated Special Forces young man on our football team, has [received] the ESPN Disney Spirit Award, which is college football's most inspirational figure. It is really cool for him and good for college football and good for America, and he will go down to the ESPN College Football Awards and accept that award in December. Really, really excited for Nate. He's had a lot of great things happen to him this year. He's played well for us on the field, but he's got so much deserving recognition off the field, and for someone who fights for our country and has helped us so much, that's very, very fitting.
This is the 83rd meeting with TCU. It's only the second time we've played them since 1995. The series began in 1897. We are 71201 against TCU. We're 32111 in Austin, and we have a 15game home winning streak. It's the fifth oldest series that we have. A&M series was 118 years before it was discontinued. Oklahoma is 107, Baylor 102, Rice 93, and as I said, the TCU game is 83 [meetings]. So I think it's fitting that they come in here for a game on Thursday night.
Gary Patterson is their head coach. He's done a tremendous job. Gary is a friend of mine. He's tough, he's aggressive, and his teams play that way. They're No. 7 in the rush defense in the country, giving up 98 yards per game, and that is amazing. And we've been able to run the ball well, so that'll be a real tough task for our guys this weekend. They're No. 16 in total defense in a league that's really scoring a lot of points, so you've got to give them credit. They've been able to hang in there and be one of the best, if not the best, defenses in the country and the best in our league.
Defensively they're only giving up 24 points a game. So again, a real test the next two weeks, but especially against TCU, for our offense. Their two defensive ends, [junior DE Stansly] Maponga, No. 90, and [freshman DE] Devonte, Fields No. 95, are both great players and really great pass rushers.
They're averaging 31.5 yards a game. They're physical with their running game. [RS freshman QB Trevone] Boykin, the quarterback that came in when [former junior QB Casey] Pachall got suspended. And we hope everything is going well with him and he's in our thoughts and prayers for a full recovery in the spring. But Gary and their staff did an amazing job of taking a young quarterback and sticking him into a very difficult situation and making it work for them. And [junior WR Josh] Boyce and [sophomore WR Brandon] Carter and [senior WR Skye] Dawson and [RS freshman WR LaDarius] Brown are tremendous wide receivers. They're probably as good a wide receiver corps as anybody in the country. They can all run, and they're sixth in the country in punt returns. So you've got to give them credit. It should be a great matchup on Thursday night.
On increased parity in college football: It seems to me that more and more, one Saturday does not carry over to the next. We see a Notre Dame team that's No. 1 in the country really struggle with Brigham Young, who had been struggling some. So you never know, and you've got to play each Saturday like it's the only game you've got. And when you walk away from the game, win or lose, you've got to fix whatever you can to get ready for the next week. I think the teams that are winning on bad days are the ones that will probably have the best chance to be at the top at the end. But it's really crazy out there. I think there's more parity than ever before. It's exciting for coaches because we know every week, you never know who's going to show up, and then you've got to manage whatever happens when you get there. And on the other side of that, you've got a chance every week. So there's not a game out there now that you can say, “There's no chance for this team to win,” because there's a possibility each week.
On if he takes time each Sunday to explain the possible scenarios for the end of the team’s season: No. What we've always done is on Sunday we explain exactly where we are and the possibilities that are out there. And then we ask them not to talk about it anymore after Sunday. Here's what I know, here's what I hear, because they're going to read, they're going to listen. And I try to give them as much as I know, which is very little in some cases, too. But what we've told them, these are the scenarios that can happen. The only way these happen is if you keep winning, so quit worrying about anything else but winning.
On the team’s progress over the season: Offensively been we've been pretty good overall. We didn't play well at Kansas the first half, and we didn't play well at against Oklahoma. The rest of the year we've been about as good as we've been around here on offense. Our kicking game has been good most of the time. Our defense was what was really, really poor, and I think we're improving as a team because our defense is improving. And I think the reason they're improving is they're playing with more confidence. They're stopping the run better. They're tackling better. So I just feel like that's put us in a better position here at the end.
On if having co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bryan Harsin is an advantage against TCU: Yes, the fact that Bryan was at Boise [State] and they have played TCU in some key games is good for us. But it's also good for TCU because Gary Patterson and their defensive staff know Boise. So that makes it even more intriguing for Thursday night, I think, because these two guys have had some real battles.
On how the TCU offense has changed with redshirt freshman QB Trevone Boykin starting: The difference is they're more dangerous now with their quarterback running. [Former junior QB] Casey [Pachal] was not a guy that was going to pull it down and run a lot. He was one of the better passers in the country, and Boykin, they're running the option with him more. They're running quarterback draw. He can scramble and beat you, but he can really scramble and throw the ball downfield. So they're still throwing the ball at a very, very high level, but he adds a dimension with his speed.
On TCU’s success after switching quarterbacks: They've done pretty well. I saw them beat West Virginia on the road in overtime. They've had some real key games. The triple overtime with Texas Tech was a tough loss for them. Iowa State beat them, but you lose your starting quarterback on Thursday morning, you get that call at 2 a.m. in the morning, that's kind of a tough adjustment for game plan on Saturday. But I think they've shown the ability to beat anybody.
On sophomore QB David Ash: Yes. We were so pleased with David through West Virginia because he did so well, and the learning curve from last year to this year has just been amazing. I don't think he's gotten near the credit nationally that he deserves for what he's done for this football team. And then secondly, as a team we just stunk at Oklahoma. And that's on the coaches. That's not on the players. We obviously didn't have our guys in the right place for that game.
And then you come back, and he did a tremendous job against Baylor. And then for the first time all year, it seemed like there was a lull for him there at Kansas. Because he started fine, but when he didn't do well or had some adversity during the ballgame, coming from him, he said, “I didn't handle the adversity well.” And he said, “I needed to put myself in a better mindset that when things happen that I'm not ready for, that I can overcome them.”
So I think he's very smart. He's obviously got strong faith, and I felt like after that game he realized that you'd better be prepared for tough things to happen every week because you've got the hardest position on the field. And unless you can be that field general that steps up when things around you are struggling, and pick the rest of the team up, then you're going to have to come out of the game. Because that's who you are, and that's who you've got to be. And he's been that way the last couple of weeks.
On the offensive line: I think running game is where that starts. Because if you can run the football, you can pass protect much more easily because they've got to worry about run and pass. And a lot of our passing game lately has been play-action, and because we're running the ball so well again, the defensive linemen have to stop and worry about the run first, and then it gives you more time as a quarterback. But I think it'll be really interesting to see our offensive line this weekend. These are the two best defensive ends we've faced since Oklahoma. So it'll be a real challenge for our tackles this week.
On if playing TCU instead of Texas A&M has lessened the excitement about the Thanksgiving rivalry game: No, I don't think so. I think it helps that TCU has been such a good team. The guys that are growing up, now that are on our team, were recruited while TCU was winning bowl games. And they won their league championship about every year. They've been in some big games, and our guys were recruited by them. So our guys would have the same attitude toward a Thursday night game with an old rivalry that our fans look forward to, and all the TCU fans and the Texas fans will talk this week like the A&M fans. I don't see it being that much different, very honestly. It is obviously different to the A&M fans. They won't be picking at the Texas fans this week, they'll be worried about Missouri. But that's the negative thing in my mind about realignment. It's taking away historical games. And what you've got to do is -- I didn't ask for the game not to be played -- so what you've got to do is, you've got to take what you've got and move forward with it. And that's why we decided that it's about Texas and it's about Thanksgiving, and very few teams get to play on Thanksgiving. In fact, I think only a professional game is against us, in the viewers' minds, on Thursday night. So I'm really excited about it. I don't think it would be as special if it wasn't an old Southwest Conference rival. I think it really helps us that TCU has done so well. Our players have buddies on that team. Our players have watched them be so successful over the past few years, and they'll be excited about that game on Thursday night.
On keeping the Thanksgiving game a Texas in-state rivalry game: Yes, the thing I always thought, it was the one time a year to showcase high school football and the programs in the state of Texas, and show the passion to everybody else out there. I don't see that being any different on Thursday night. I think the passion of the TCU fans, it'll be one of our largest crowds ever. Everybody that likes college football will be watching this game, which is cool, and I think the players will appreciate that. The other thing it does - the players sometimes they don't get Christmas. Sometimes they don't get Thanksgiving, or if they do, it's a meal with their team where the coaches are saying, “Don't eat too much.”And in this case, what will happen is our players and coaches will have an opportunity to have their Thanksgivings on Friday or on Saturday. And I know our family will have our Thanksgiving on Saturday. If we were playing Saturday, I wouldn't have a family Thanksgiving, and most coaches and players across the country don't. So after the game, our players will go home with their parents, and they'll have a good two or three days to spend at home. All day Friday, all day Saturday and half the day Sunday. Our coaches will be able to start working on Kansas State a little early because Kansas State, I think, is open this week, so they've got more time. But I love playing on Thanksgiving, and I think it's special, and I think it'll be special on Thursday night regardless of who we play.
On if it’s a challenge to prepare young players for a Thanksgiving or Thursday night game: It is. It's funny that this is Wednesday's practice today. They look us like we're crazy when we say Sunday is Tuesday, and Monday is Wednesday, and try to work back through that. The other thing that's more difficult when you play a Saturday night game, they watch games all day. So they're either meeting with us or they're in their room watching their buddies play or watching a rival play or somebody in their league, or watching a national game. And this week they get to watch the Cowboys and the Redskins, so they'll like that. But it is totally different from having a game on Friday night that they watch to a Wednesday night. Their routine really changes. Now, I've told them also, I think it's much better that our league made it where TCU was open the weekend before we played the Thanksgiving game, and we were open. I think it's safer for the guys. If you look at the poor Cowboys and Redskins, they play late Sunday afternoon and have to play Thursday. I mean, they've got three days to take that physical abuse that you have during a ballgame and get their minds ready to play again. And I've told our players, “You want to play pro football.” So when we used to play on Saturday night and have to come back Thursday night, I've always told them, “That's the way it is in the NFL, so get ready for it.” But I like it better this way, and I think it's safer. I hope that we can continue to play on Thanksgiving, and I hope that we have the open date the weekend before for both teams.
On if you can prepare for the emotion of senior night: No, you never know. And we talk about it a lot building up to it that you've got two games left at home, so enjoy this moment. So it's not just that, “Oh my gosh, this is the last time I'll ever walk out in this stadium to play in front of people.” And the thing we've always said is, “There's so much emotion. Try to keep your emotion intact and enjoy the game and play well in the ballgame. And then if you're going to cry, cry afterwards because you won. Cry because you're happy and it's your last home game.” But we have had some teams play poorly early in this ballgame because it was senior night. The good and bad thing for this football team, there aren't many seniors, so it would just be a few that it would affect. But I do think last year's game is one of the few games that we've lost on senior night. It was a great game against Kansas State where we just didn't score enough points. We played well enough to win the game, and we played great on defense. But we've told the guys, “When each of you are seniors you're going to want to remember that last game and you want to have good memories of it.” So our entire team should do everything they can do to help the seniors win that last game, because they'll want the same to happen to them down the road.